TAXI drivers are up in arms over a potential increase to fares for passengers in Barrow.

Dozens of drivers gathered outside the town hall yesterday to protest against a proposed hike in fares.

They say an increase of around 16 per cent in fees for Hackney Carriage cars is due to be discussed by council licensing chiefs and would be harmful for Barrow's taxi industry and a negative for passengers.

Barrow council has insisted that any changes to taxi policy have only come following consultation with the trade.

A spokesman from the Furness Taxi Trade Association said: "Drivers are disappointed and upset with the licensing department at Barrow Town Hall constantly going against the wishes of the trade, even after agreements have been reached at so-called trade liaison meetings.

"The taxi trade recently reached an agreement with local taxi operators to increase fares to a more reasonable level.

"The trade then asked the town hall to postpone any further increases to the rank rate until at least a year had passed.

"This has been ignored by the licensing department.

"Our aim has been over the last few months is to create a level playing field, so that the public can be assured that if they phone hail or hire a taxi from a rank they will be paying about the same rate.

"If the council implement this unwanted rise then this becomes impossible."

There are thought to be more than 300 licensed taxi drivers in the Barrow borough area.

The council sent out a notice to drivers asking for their opinions on the proposals, with the seven who responded voting unanimously in favour of it.

But the taxi trade association said it had asked members not to respond to the consultation.

An email sent to taxi drivers by the council said: "A review of the fares has now taken place, based on the weightings which were put forward by the trade.

"We also intend to implement a maximum booking fee within the table of fares."